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  1. #1351
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    In terms of the Met's sensitivity to the family, we have to remember that this opera has been around for 20 years, has been performed in many other places, and exists as a harrowing and realistic film in DVD form. I would argue that the protests and uninformed public reaction, with its screams about "terrorist murder", would be more upsetting to the family than the opera itself.

    Now to the opera itself. First, whether an opera is composed or not will not take away from the events, which were of course reported in the press at the time (did anyone care about the family's feelings then?). Secondly, the two most sympathetic characters in the opera are Leon and Madeleine Klinghoffer. The opera highlights his integrity and bravery, the way he stood up to his tormentors, his love and care for his wife, and gives him a beautiful post-mortem aria. The opera ends showing her terrible grief and loss. Two ordinary people get caught up in violent events and their lives are destroyed because they are the "wrong" religion, political party, ethnicity etc in the eyes of those perpetuating the violence, like so many ordinary families around the world right now. That, to me, is the crux of the work.
    Very well said, and exactly right regarding Adams' and Goodman's treatment of Leon and Madeleine Klinghoffer - which is one of the reasons why I said that people passing judgment should see the opera. They will be surprised. It is appalling to me that likely a tiny, tiny percentage of the people protesting have seen the opera.

    This opera was commissioned by five American and European companies and the Brooklyn Academy of Music and has been given in numerous countries and cities around the world. It's been sort of vetted and has withstood the test of time, still occupying an important position in the repertory, 23 years later; its artistic merits are real and the sudden resurgence of the controversy is weird. This is not a new opera. It has almost a quarter of a century of age.

    The opera was written in 1991. The real-life events depicted in it took place in 1985. That's only six years later, so I can understand why Mr. Klinghoffer's daughters were upset. Most operas address events that happened hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Wounds were too fresh when it came out and like I said I empathize with the family; they were shocked. This is one of the most valid criticisms, I think; that the creators displayed some insensitivity when they decided to tackle the events only six years later. But like Soave said, there is never a preoccupation by the media to spare family members when there is a noteworthy story, so, it's hard to hold the arts to this standard. As a society, we don't observe this standard, so why should our arts observe it?

    I won't accept very well any accusation of historical inaccuracy, like I explained. A work of art is not a documentary.

    Now, I do see some merit in another part of the detractors' accusation: that the opera equalizes the two sides' human drama. This is a point that *can* be argued, in my opinion, when in real life there was an innocent man who gets murdered, and there were perpetrators. I'm not really sure, though, that the opera fails to show this asymmetry. I think it does show it. Mr. Klinghoffer is clearly depicted as an innocent victim. But when detractors say that the piece should at least be called "The Murder of Klinghoffer" rather than "The Death of Klinghoffer" I think they do have a point. Let's be clear: he was murdered; it was not just a "death" that occurs by accident. The opera "The Rape of Lucretia" is not called "The Night Lucretia Happened to Have Sex." Still, this might be a question of semantics, since in the work itself, there is no disguising of the fact that the title role was murdered (just as much as in Britten's opera, it is clear that Lucretia was raped, and this would have remained clear even under a different title). I wonder if people should be caught up on the title of the work, or on its content. I do understand that a title has symbolic weight (thus my saying that on this, the detractors do have a point).

    On the other hand, like I said the object of the art is human emotions, so showing emotions in both sides is not necessarily saying that one of the sides or both sides are justified in what they are doing. It's rather the idea that the focus of the opera is not on what is politically right or wrong about each side's actions (and by each side I don't just mean the Klinghoffers and the hijackers - I mean the larger issue of Israel vs. Palestine), but rather, the focus is on the human drama that affects both sides. My take on this is that we hear enough in the political discourse about the rights and wrongs in this situation; this is again not the mission of the art form, to make a clear political statement; the mission is rather one of addressing the human drama, which is one of the reasons why art exists. Sometimes we need the arts to get to the human drama, since there are already many other platforms for debating and taking action on the right and wrong part of the political spectrum, and this is done so intensively by the media, the politicians, the public, and the fighting sides, that the human dimension of events sometimes goes unexpressed - thus the arts, to fill this gap. Actually this might even have a beneficial effect on the political landscape. More understanding of each side's tragedy might lead to more tolerance. Isn't that what we should all be aiming for as a society - that one day, negotiations, peace, and understanding will prevail, putting an end to the conflict? For this, empathy is important, and this is one contribution that the arts can make. The arts have a function. It isn't the accurate depiction of reality. It isn't taking sides. It is rather, adding the possibility of reflection on the human element, aiming for a more refined, more elevated way to address human conflict.

    So, while detractors are saying that the opera humanizes terrorism, I wonder if one day a Palestinian watching this opera wouldn't say - "oh wow, I guess I can empathize with the plea of the Jewish people after all, when I understand better this character Klinghoffer inspired by true events and allow his story and his wife's to touch me at a deeper level - aren't we all human beings after all, subject to pain and suffering?"

    In summary, my take is that when I'm studying geopolitics or debating it or taking political action as a citizen, I'm interested in taking sides. When I'm enjoying a piece of art, I'm more interested in getting in touch with the human elements expressed by the piece, and with an *artistic*, more refined way to deal with these issues.

    Finally, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of censoring the arts - even though like JohnGerald said it has always happened. It is interesting to notice that the composer's reactions to the recent events recovers the word "intolerance" - "The cancellation of the international telecast is a deeply regrettable decision and goes far beyond issues of 'artistic freedom,' and ends in promoting the same kind of intolerance that the opera's detractors claim to be preventing," said Mr. Adams.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); October 22nd, 2014 at 09:28 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #1352
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    It is ironic that our passions bring out both the best and the worst in us.

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  5. #1353
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I'm going to play the devil's advocate here. Even though the story of Klinghoffer's murder was all over the media, I would argue that members of the Fourth Estate have never been particularly known for their sensitivity. I don't believe the fact that the press shows little restraint in reporting an event (right down to the grisly details, if possible) is justification for someone else to come along and add to the family's grief. To me, it's akin to saying that, since someone's been hurt already, it won't matter if I also add some bodily harm. I'm really not sure that Adams and his librettist used good judgment in this case. Usually, the historic figures with whom operas have dealt were all long dead, as were their family members. And they were public figures, as were Richard Nixon, Anna Nicole Smith, and Walt Disney -- all subjects of late 20th/early 21st century operas. Public figures by their own choosing, I might add. Klinghoffer was not. He was a private citizen murdered by individuals who used him as a proxy for their grievances toward governments. And while art isn't a documentary, I don't believe that absolves artists from a fundamental obligation to tell the truth. I'm not saying Mr. Adams' treatment of the Klinghoffers or even his killers wasn't truthful (and yes, I'm well aware that there can be all sorts of shadings as to what constitutes "truth" in some instances). I am saying that calling something "art" doesn't relieve its creators of responsibility and accountability.
    Of course, I also realize this is rather a case of closing the barn door after the horse has run off, since the opera has been around for more than two decades and has been performed a number of times. And I very definitely agree that people who are protesting something -- whatever it may be -- have an obligation to familiarize themselves with whatever it is first. (They may actually change their minds if they do.)

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  7. #1354
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    Usually, the historic figures with whom operas have dealt were all long dead, as were their family members. And they were public figures, as were Richard Nixon, Anna Nicole Smith, and Walt Disney -- all subjects of late 20th/early 21st century operas. Public figures by their own choosing, I might add. Klinghoffer was not. He was a private citizen murdered by individuals who used him as a proxy for their grievances toward governments.
    These are good points, but there are further distinctions to draw as well. The other operas you mention portray these public figures in their conflicted, sometimes unflattering, complexity. On the other hand, if I remember correctly, the private citizen Klinghoffer is presented primarily as an innocent victim. So while one might object to staging the murder, and giving voice to the ideology behind it, there is little in the portrayal of the man himself to find objectionable.

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  9. #1355
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I'm going to play the devil's advocate here. Even though the story of Klinghoffer's murder was all over the media, I would argue that members of the Fourth Estate have never been particularly known for their sensitivity. I don't believe the fact that the press shows little restraint in reporting an event (right down to the grisly details, if possible) is justification for someone else to come along and add to the family's grief. To me, it's akin to saying that, since someone's been hurt already, it won't matter if I also add some bodily harm. I'm really not sure that Adams and his librettist used good judgment in this case. Usually, the historic figures with whom operas have dealt were all long dead, as were their family members. And they were public figures, as were Richard Nixon, Anna Nicole Smith, and Walt Disney -- all subjects of late 20th/early 21st century operas. Public figures by their own choosing, I might add. Klinghoffer was not. He was a private citizen murdered by individuals who used him as a proxy for their grievances toward governments. And while art isn't a documentary, I don't believe that absolves artists from a fundamental obligation to tell the truth. I'm not saying Mr. Adams' treatment of the Klinghoffers or even his killers wasn't truthful (and yes, I'm well aware that there can be all sorts of shadings as to what constitutes "truth" in some instances). I am saying that calling something "art" doesn't relieve its creators of responsibility and accountability.
    Of course, I also realize this is rather a case of closing the barn door after the horse has run off, since the opera has been around for more than two decades and has been performed a number of times. And I very definitely agree that people who are protesting something -- whatever it may be -- have an obligation to familiarize themselves with whatever it is first. (They may actually change their minds if they do.)
    I hear you, Mary, and I did say that I empathize with the family and find this part of the criticism to be valid, and also mentioned that the opera was composed only six years after the event which might have been insensitive, so, nothing to add to what you put so well. I would say, though, that one of the examples you picked would rather function in the opposite way intended by you: Anna Nicole Smith's death was rather recent when the opera was composed, and she does have a living child.

    I do disagree with part of what you said in the fact that I sustain that opera doesn't need to accurately reflect reality. People had a beef with another Jewish couple who were characters in this opera and did not exist in real life. I'm tempted to shout to those people: "Oh my God, stop the press, an opera dared to have a couple of fictional characters!! That's gotta be a first!"

    It's the whole concept of artistic license.

    Furthermore, I don't think artists have "a fundamental obligation to tell the truth." I think they have a fundamental obligation to make art, and hopefully resonant art that will add to people's reflections and understanding of the human experience.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #1356
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Critical appraisal for the Met's Klinghoffer:

    "To see is to know." —Wall Street Journal

    "One of John Adams's most inspired scores… The baritone Alan Opie [as Klinghoffer] sings with an elegant blend of poignancy and feistiness… Mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens [as Marilyn Klinghoffer] was overwhelming… The ovations at the end were tremendous. The audience seemed grateful for the chance to actually see this opera, instead of just hearing about it." —New York Times

    "A stirring piece of work that leaves one shaken." —New York Daily News

    "Depth, not controversy, lingers after Met Opera's The Death of Klinghoffer… The final-curtain cheers — some of the loudest I've heard at the Met since Luciano Pavarotti's prime — grew to a roar when the composer himself took his bows." —WQXR

    "David Robertson led a performance of subtle splendors. The orchestra and chorus were unflappably great." —New York magazine

    "The Met Opera's Death of Klinghoffer is simply not the anti-Semitic bogeyman the protestors make it out to be… It is the nature and responsibility of art to scrutinize people's behavior. This is not vindication — this is examination." —Ha'aretz

    "Klinghoffer has zero anti-Semitism… not for a second does your heart fail to go out to their victims… [A] gripping, beautifully sung Tom Morris production." —Frank Rich

    "Art, we're reminded, doesn't always offer clear-cut messages, any more than life does." —USA Today

    "Met Opera's Death of Klinghoffer is a compassionate feat… Opera, that supposedly irrational art form, became a clarion voice for reason." —LA Times

    "When Adams walked onstage, during the curtain calls, he received a huge ovation." —New Yorker

    ------------

    Met's official statement: "The Death of Klinghoffer is not anti-Semitic, nor it glorifies terrorism. The Met will not bow to the pressure" - I wish they had taken this stance even more firmly and had not cancelled the HD broadcast.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  12. #1357
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    I hear you, Mary, and I did say that I empathize with the family and find this part of the criticism to be valid, and also mentioned that the opera was composed only six years after the event which might have been insensitive, so, nothing to add to what you put so well. I would say, though, that one of the examples you picked would rather function in the opposite way intended by you: Anna Nicole Smith's death was rather recent when the opera was composed, and she does have a living child.

    I do disagree with part of what you said in the fact that I sustain that opera doesn't need to accurately reflect reality. People had a beef with another Jewish couple who were characters in this opera and did not exist in real life. I'm tempted to shout to those people: "Oh my God, stop the press, an opera dared to have a couple of fictional characters!! That's gotta be a first!"

    It's the whole concept of artistic license.

    Furthermore, I don't think artists have "a fundamental obligation to tell the truth." I think they have a fundamental obligation to make art, and hopefully resonant art that will add to people's reflections and understanding of the human experience.
    I have to disagree here. Leni Riefenstahl, who was responsible for the Nazi propaganda film, "Triumph of the Will," and the film studio that produced the notorious "Jud Süss" all probably would have argued that these works constituted "art." And God knows such films certainly resonated with some segments of the German-speaking population at the time. In my opinion, "artistic license" only goes so far, and doesn't confer some sort of immunity from responsibility and accountability for what one creates. The objection to the fictitious Jewish couple originally included in The Death of Klinghoffer was related to the fact that they reinforced negative stereotypes. How does that add to people's "understanding of the human experience?" Would you make the same argument if an opera libretto contained a fictional African-American couple whose portrayal reinforced racist stereotypes?
    And Anna Nicole Smith's death, while certainly tragic, was a result of her lifestyle. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered, and his children are adults who undoubtedly suffered deeply over the loss of their parent in such a brutal fashion. Smith's daughter was an infant when she died, and it's unlikely she'll even remember her mother.

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  14. #1358
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I have to disagree here. Leni Riefenstahl, who was responsible for the Nazi propaganda film, "Triumph of the Will," and the film studio that produced the notorious "Jud Süss" all probably would have argued that these works constituted "art." And God knows such films certainly resonated with some segments of the German-speaking population at the time. In my opinion, "artistic license" only goes so far, and doesn't confer some sort of immunity from responsibility and accountability for what one creates. The objection to the fictitious Jewish couple originally included in The Death of Klinghoffer was related to the fact that they reinforced negative stereotypes. How does that add to people's "understanding of the human experience?" Would you make the same argument if an opera libretto contained a fictional African-American couple whose portrayal reinforced racist stereotypes?
    And Anna Nicole Smith's death, while certainly tragic, was a result of her lifestyle. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered, and his children are adults who undoubtedly suffered deeply over the loss of their parent in such a brutal fashion. Smith's daughter was an infant when she died, and it's unlikely she'll even remember her mother.
    Well, you have a good point when you quote these Nazi propaganda films, but the issue is, I don't think The Death of Klinghoffer is anti-Semitic, and many others including Jewish-Americans agree. Maybe while composing it some excesses were made, and the scene where the other Jewish couple reinforced negative stereotypes got deleted from the final version, in my understanding, resulting in a final product that is not anti-Semitic - and portrays the title role and his wife in a *very* positive light.

    See, even the ADL - Anti-Defamation League - the very organization that put pressure on the Met to cancel the broadcast, issued a statement saying that the opera is not anti-Semitic.

    So, is it? If it is, then people have a point (just like I wouldn't endorse a racist opera against African-Americans). But if it isn't (and I believe it isn't) then quite simply they don't have a point; they are protesting a piece of art supposedly for being anti-Semitic, when it isn't. So, when you say the artist is responsible and accountable for what he created, what exactly is Mr. Adams being blamed for, if his piece is not anti-Semitic? What is he accountable for - for portraying Mr. Klinghoffer in the best possible light? I think Mr. Adams would take that, gladly.

    People made a similar claim against Porgy and Bess, saying that it reinforces negative African-American stereotypes. Mind you, I spoke in person with Larry Brownlee about this. He disagrees. Several other African-American singers also disagree (I spoke with four others about this). And I'll tell you, there is more of a case to make about Porgy and Bess reinforcing racial stereotypes, than about The Death of Klinghoffer. Still, the very community that would be affected by the stereotype, doesn't think so. They uphold it as a fabulous piece of American art (which it is).

    About your other points, I've already expressed my agreement.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    I am reading Luis and Mauers comments and to me both you scholars have excellent points. I wonder if the same type of person that goes to traditional Italian German and French operas attended this opera or were there more political people there to explain all that
    applause? When Adams came out did they applauded because they appreciated the music or because they supported the freedom of expression courage to tackle a controversial subject or both. However, with that being said why didn't Adams consult with the daughters? I like Luis's positive attitude but I also have the highest respect for the daughter's privacy and would never attend an event that makes money off the blood of innocent survivors. I would of course defend the right of Adams to put on his opera. I just can't get past why he didn't contact those daughters as how do you speak for the dead when they are not alive to defend themselves.
    You guys sure provoke thought on such a touchy subject and I think the best of both your comments is of high redeeming value. Who would I nominate for Chief Justice Luis for his wonderful positive attitude or Mauer who like a knight defends the oppressed and is vigilant to guard the rights of the minorities. Solution: we should go back to talking about that Anna again. Remember the poster talks does anyone have a poster of Anna?

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    There is a real problem with attempting to impose today's values on the actions folks took in the past. Even the recent past. I suspect this is one reason for the restrictions here on political/religious discussions (another being the fact that this Board is about opera, not politics and religion). I suspect that the Klinghoffer issue has been thoroughly discussed, and it might be time to get fired up about something else. But what do I know?

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  19. #1361
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gigli13 View Post
    Solution: we should go back to talking about that Anna again. Remember the poster talks does anyone have a poster of Anna?
    Yes, there is a poster of Anna, that one for Manon.

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  21. #1362
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnGerald View Post
    I suspect that the Klinghoffer issue has been thoroughly discussed, and it might be time to get fired up about something else. But what do I know?
    I think you have a point. Mary, of course, should be given the right to respond to my latest thoughts, but maybe then we should all agree to disagree, if disagreements remain, and move on from this mine field.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  22. #1363
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    I saw Anna's Manon in an HD telecast.The St. Sulpice scene with Beczala and a bed was (cough cough [please remember to cover the cough]) a ... testosterone moment! In fact, so was the second scene in the DVD release with Villazon ... and the second scene in Don Pasquale with the putting on of thigh high stockings ... and ...and ...

  23. #1364
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnGerald View Post
    I saw Anna's Manon in an HD telecast.The St. Sulpice scene with Beczala and a bed was (cough cough [please remember to cover the cough]) a ... testosterone moment! In fact, so was the second scene in the DVD release with Villazon ... and the second scene in Don Pasquale with the putting on of thigh high stockings ... and ...and ...
    Well, get this: I saw in person at the opera house both the St. Sulpice scene with Beczala and the Don Pasquale scene with the thigh high stockings...

    and I had good seats, with some elevation from the orchestra floor which gave me an eyeful of certain cough cough assets cough cough.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Not to ... prolong ... a topic that the female members might (but probably don't) find distasteful, but certain ... attributes ... are closer to the eyes on my large flatscreen HDTV than anywhere in the opera house, unless one is extremely close to the ... the ... performance.

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